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Health Highlights: Sept. 11, 2019

Last Updated: September 11, 2019.

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

EPA to Phase Out Chemical Testing on Mammals

The eventual elimination of chemical testing on mammals was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It plans a 30% reduction in the number of studies that require the use of mammals to test potentially harmful chemicals by 2025, and to halt such studies by 2035, although some approvals may be granted on a case-by-case basis, The New York Times reported.

The EPA also announced that it will provide $4.25 million to four universities and a medical center -- working on new ways of chemical testing that do not use animals.

"We can protect human health and the environment by using cutting-edge, ethically sound science in our decision-making that efficiently and cost-effectively evaluates potential effects without animal testing," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a memo announcing the changes, The Times reported.

The EPA has long required that new chemicals be tested on a variety of animals -- including rats, dogs, birds and fish -- to assess their toxicity. The percentage of tests that involve mammals was not immediately available from the EPA.

The policy shift was welcomed by animal rights groups but questioned by environmentalists and scientists who said animal testing of chemicals is needed to protect human health.

"We are really excited as this has been something we've wanted for quite some time," Kitty Block, president and chief executive, Humane Society of the United States, told The Times. "The alternatives are the future. They're more efficient and save lives."

Animal testing of chemicals is still necessary because cells in a petri dish can't yet replace whole living systems, according to Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.

"The EPA's deadline is arbitrary," Sass told The Times. "Our interest isn't in speed, it's getting it right. We want proper animal testing because we don't want harmful chemicals to end up in our food, air and water."

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Sixth U.S. Death from Vaping-Related Lung Illness Confirmed

A severe lung illness linked with vaping has been confirmed as the cause of death of a person in Kansas, state officials said Tuesday, making it the sixth such death in the United States.

It was unclear what the Kansas patient, who was over 50 and had a history of health problems, had been vaping, NBC News reported.

The other five confirmed vaping-related deaths occurred in Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, Minnesota and California. The number of cases of vaping-related respiratory illnesses in the United States has doubled, with 471 confirmed or under investigation across the country.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people to avoid vaping while investigators try to determine what's causing the respiratory illnesses, NBC News reported.

"It's time to stop vaping," Dr. Lee Norman, secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in a news release. "If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop."

Health officials have so far been unable to pinpoint any one brand, ingredient or substance that could explain the illnesses, NBC News reported.

The main suspect at this point is an oily chemical called vitamin E acetate, according to the CDC.

"The focus of our investigation is narrowing and that's great news, but we're still faced with complex questions in this outbreak that will take time to answer," Ileana Arias, acting deputy director of non-infectious diseases at the CDC, said during a recent media briefing.


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